Did you know that some of the biggest dangers for pets may be lurking in our own home? Take a few minutes to educate yourself about some of the most commonly seen pet toxins: chocolate, marijuana, and Xylitol.


Most people enjoy chocolate in some form or another, but it is such a common household item that we often forget how harmful it can be to our pets.

  • The toxic ingredient in chocolate is called theobromine.
  • Theobromine is a caffeine-like compound that results in increased heart rate, blood vessel dilation, and the relaxation of the organ muscles.
  • Low doses of theobromine can result in agitation and gastrointestinal signs such as drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • At higher doses of chocolate ingestion can cause a high heart rate, increased blood pressure, and abnormal heart rhythms. At very high doses tremors, seizures, and even death can occur.
  • The amount of theobromine contained in chocolate varies with the type. White chocolate has the least amount per ounce, with milk, dark, and baking chocolate having increasing concentrations and potentials for adverse reactions.


While many people will not admit to their veterinarian that they have it in their home, marijuana toxicosis is one of the most common pet poisonings that we see. Pets most frequently ingest marijuana, either in the form of baked products, “joint” remains, or by getting into someone’s stash of the drug.

  • The chemical that causes illness in pets is the same that provides a “high” for people: THC.
  • The most common symptoms of marijuana intoxication include depression and/or hyperactive excitement, loss of balance, hallucinations, seizures, or coma. Some may also have dilated pupils, fast breathing, abnormal body temperature, abnormal heart rate, or leak urine.
  • Most animals will recover without treatment, although treatment can be necessary if your pet consumes a large amount of the drug.
  • If you think that your pet may have ingested or been exposed to marijuana, it is extremely important for your veterinarian to know this. We are under no obligation to report anything.  We simply want to help your pet as much as possible and avoid unnecessary and expensive tests and treatments.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is growing in popularity. While it is safe for people, its ingestion by pets can be devastating. It is being found increasingly in low sugar or diabetic-friendly baked goods and candies, gums, cold medicines, and toothpastes.

  • Pets absorb Xylitol into their bloodstream very quickly, which triggers the release of a large dose of insulin. This results in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar level called hypoglycemia.
  • This dramatic drop in blood sugar happens within 30 minutes of ingestion and can result in loss of coordination, depression, collapse, and even death.
  • Xylitol ingestion also has been associated with liver failure in some pets.

Don’t forget about your pets when allowing these potentially toxic items into your household. Store them in a cabinet or other pet-proof location and take care to place all garbage containing these items in a safe place as well.

If you suspect your pet may have ingested a toxic item, notify your veterinarian immediately, time is often of the essence when it comes to treating toxic reactions successfully.